Since the 2008 election, the Supreme Court has issued two mammoth decrees that impact our democracy. On Jan. 21, 2010, Citizens United radically expanded the influence of money on elections, and today's 5-4 decision to undermine The Voting Rights Act of 1965 will radically curtail the influence of People on elections.
My take: Five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court may think they are doing the Republican Party a favor with today's ruling that essentially neutralizes the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. But, voter suppression and "Rebranding the Republican Party" are incompatible. It's an either/or situation, and, this ruling will make it so much more tempting for the GOP to pursue the former rather than the latter.
I share in common with "moderate Republicans" a view that the GOP urgently needs a long-term retooling in order to appeal to a 21st century electorate — an electorate that is already too diverse for the divide and conquer tactics of days gone by, and one that is increasingly connected to the Internet, and thus less susceptible to the high-dollar television and radio advertising that both parties rely upon today. Soon, if your party agenda represents the interests of your donors and not your constituents, no amount of race baiting, and, no amount of political advertising, not even 24/7 political advertising disguised as "news," will convince us otherwise.
But in the short term, voter suppression combined with big money can keep the Republican party competitive — if not at the national level, at the state and local level, and in the U.S. House of Representatives, whose districts are drawn by state governments. And herein lies the problem, too many politicians and paid consultants are involved in government primarily to enrich themselves. To do that, they need to be in power now. The long-term viability of the Republican party is not their problem, by then they will be lobbyists pulling down 7 figure salaries.
Take a look at the new voting laws being proposed by the North Carolina legislature, who, despite rapidly shifting demographics, have been afforded a "last stand" opportunity to warp the electoral process thanks to grotesque, race-based gerrymandering that packed African Americans, and the diverse communities in which they reside, into a minimum number of districts:
Laws that seek to limit voter participation have been found mostly in swing states (Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania) in recent years — spurred, many argue, by the election of Barack Obama in 2008. In many cases, these laws have helped the Republican party. They also helped Justice Roberts argue that it's no longer fair to apply the pre-clearence provision to states in the South, by and large, but not in the north.
The Republicans on the Supreme Court believe they are doing their party a favor by unleashing a deluge of laws that will impact voting rights and overwhelm the courts — especially since all such laws will have to go into effect first, and then be challenged after harm can be shown, rather than being blocked before they are implemented in jurisdictions covered under section 5.
Laws that limit minority voter participation will impact elections in the short term. But, while an aging, shrinking consumer base for Republican entertainment programs will be convinced that it is perfectly okay to disenfranchise minority communities in order to win elections, a growing majority of Americans know voter suppression when we see it. And, we don't like it.
The danger for the Republican party is that they will constantly find themselves grappling with potential voting restriction laws, not unlike the wave of anti-immigrant laws that followed what seemed like an anti-immigrant electioneering bonanza courtesy of Lou Dobbs, CNN, Fox News and others. Anti-immigrant electioneering backfired, and so will this.
The GOP cannot rebrand itself by putting yet another divisive issue front and center, and being forced by their base to take a backward-looking, racially insensitive stance. They can survive, and might even have some modest gains with this tactic during the next few years — when trimming off a percentage of the minority vote will still be enough thanks to the block vote of the Fox News audience (white, over 70). But how long can a voting block that is over 70 maintain its influence, with another crop of diverse, mixed race, and multi-cultural Americans turning 18 every year?
This might be a short term fix for the 2014 election. Voting restrictions will also help in Virginia in 2013. But the narrative that flows from on-going battles over voting rights will accelerate the speed at which Republicans lose the white, under-70 vote, starting with women and independents.
And, based on the strategy we’ve seen executed by the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, the voting rights narrative will flow “like a mighty stream.” Compare the crowds in the video at the top of this post to those you see in the first video we did about the Moral Monday movement for Story of America:
A movement is growing in North Carolina, and it's powered by People, not profiteers.
Below, we interview the attorney who led the defense of the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court earlier this year:
John Schwartz of The New York Times explains:
Chief Justice Roberts opens his opinion by stating that "the Voting Rights Act of 1965 employed extraordinary measures to address an extraordinary problem," using the "strong medicine" of applying heavy requirements on some states and not others to fight suppression of voting rights. He then suggests that those rules have outlived their usefulness.
"At the same time, voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that. The question is whether the Act’s extraordinary measures, including its disparate treatment of the States, continue to satisfy constitutional requirements. As we put it a short time ago, 'the Act imposes current burdens and must be justified by current needs.'”
Justice Ginsburg's dissenting opinion on Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court Decision.
“The Court holds §4(b) invalid on the ground that it is “irrational to base coverage on the use of voting tests 40 years ago, when such tests have been illegal since that time.” Ante, at 23. But the Court disregards what Congress set about to do in enacting the VRA. That extraordinary legislation scarcely stopped at the particular tests and devices that happened to exist in 1965. The grand aim of the Act is to secure to all in our polity equal citizen ship stature, a voice in our democracy undiluted by race. As the record for the 2006 reauthorization makes abundantly clear, second-generation barriers to minority voting rights have emerged in the covered jurisdictions as attempted substitutes for the first-generation barriers that originally triggered preclearance in those jurisdictions. See supra, at 5–6, 8, 15–17. The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclearance is no longer needed. Ante, at 21–22, 23–24. With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA)told TPM that Congress should act to preserving voting rights: “My experience with John Lewis in Selma earlier this year was a profound experience that demonstrated the fortitude it took to advance civil rights and ensure equal protection for all,” Cantor said in a statement provided to TPM. “I’m hopeful Congress will put politics aside, as we did on that trip, and find a responsible path forward that ensures that the sacred obligation of voting in this country remains protected.”
More videos about voting rights:
The 2000 election is an example. The problems that came up in the state of Florida were in Democratic controlled counties, using voting machines that were completely outdated, and caused an error rate over nearly 20%. Compare that to other counties of same size run by Republicans, who took the responsibility seriously, and updated all of their voting machines, which reduced the error rate to less than 1%. You also didn’t have the long lines since the new machines were easier to follow on the ballots and easier to process.
I know all this because I worked at both the county level and state level here in my state. The only counties that refused to update to the new systems were heavily Democratic controlled counties with large populations. Our system of registration is computerized with each county tied to all the others. When someone moves and registers at a new county, they are automatically taken off the roles in the old county. This keeps the voter rolls clean of duplicates. The state had to sue the two counties that refused to join with the others, to get them hooked up and be able to clean their voter rolls of duplicates. We knew why they had refused, in that they were known for a lot of voter fraud. They would have much higher voter participation percentage than the rest of the state, during most of the elections.
I have talked to some of the low end employees in these counties, and they acknowledged or had heard of voter fraud, mostly through absentee ballots, but were afraid to come out publicly.
Your claim of the poor having to jump through hoops to prove their citizenship is no more valid than the requirements needed for a driver’s license. I also don’t think early voting is a good thing. There is too much that happens in those last days that might change someone’s mind about a candidate. If people have a valid reason why they can’t make it to the polls on the normal day, they they have the option to apply for an absentee ballot. At the county level, I was part of making sure that rest homes and other senior citizen locations knew that if anyone there that couldn’t get out, that all they had to do is set up a call from the senior to us and we’d mail out the application and then the ballot later after the app was returned by mail.
As far as college students, I’ll have to explain not only voter registration, but other laws that apply. College students that are still dependents on their parents, by law, usually need to have their primary residence at their parents home. This is in tax law. There is also residency law, where county and state law dictate that you must declare one residency as primary for tax purposes. It also applies for voter registration. I can’t say for all states, but for most like mine, you can only register at your primary or permanent home location. To try and register at one county and claim another county as your permanent home, would call into question all of the above that I just went through. College ID’s also do not include an address because of the temp nature of the students housing nature. Thus why the reason why Student ID’s are not valid for voter registration.
Of all the points you made, I can see those who are very elderly having problems with the birth certificate issue. That is one point I would recommend all law makers to put in some alternatives for proof that are valid. People who have become citizens legally, would not having this problem, as they already went through the harsh process with paperwork requirements.
I do have to take exception with George Gilbert. Someone who complains about the laws making it harder for minorities to vote, when he himself has prevented those in the military from voting, and complaining about the cost of processing military requests. Oh you didn’t know that he disenfranchised the military? Then read here:http://www.civitasreview.com/elections-campaigns/did-you-hear-the-one-about/
Perhaps a few interviews of County Clerks from Republican districts would shed some light on this issue. I’m getting tired of the putdowns on the minorities and poor on this issue. It really is insulting.
PS: For Annabel. Why is it OK to have the right to vote for people that will by force of law steal your earnings to give to others, while pushing to deny or abridge the right of self defense of our 2nd amendment right?
The current slate of voting restrictions aim will result, and have resulted in in making people of color wait longer at the polls. They make poor people and the elderly, including many people of color, jump through hoops to prove citizenship when they have been voting for decades. They do away with programs that make it easier for people to vote, like Sunday voting (popular with Black churches) and early voting, which benefits all voters, but especially people live in more populated areas). They penalize college students who attempt to vote where they live instead of where their parents live, etc.
All of these strategies shave off a percentage of the vote among all communities, but they are targeted to shave off a larger percentage of minority, poor, and young people — folks like you and me who have the same constitutional right to vote, a right that should not be denied or abridged for political or any purposes.
Having SOME access to the polls is not the same thing as having equal access.
There wasn’t that much cut out of the law, contrary to all the claims made.
My sense here is that liberals here are looking down on minorities as incapable of doing the basics others are required to do in order to vote. I’m not really sure that is racism, or more just elitism that is a constant for liberals, in their quest to dictate our lives in how to live.
Of the areas that have had voting and voter troubles, have strangely been Democratic party controlled for decades. The counties that minorities have complaints in when voting or standing in long lines, are run by and controlled by Democrats. So again, how is this a Republican attempt at voter suppression? I am very agitated by claims like that made about Republicans, when it’s Democrats who are the ones in charge.
I’m sorry but the Coffee Party stance of putting the truth out is ringing very hollow and has been for quite some time.
Questions I plan to ask him:
1) his reading of the SCOTUS decision,
2) where did NC stand with section 5, did VRA come in to play with lawsuits re. voting rights in NC
3) Kirk Ross legislature that was elected by less than 50 percent of the population, not just over-reaching but way over-reaching. The response is Moral Monday, and my observation is that the Civil Rights legacy that propels MM is a model for the rest of the country if it’s true as many are saying that we need to reaffirm and reestablish of the Civil Rights movement
The GOP is simply not going to rebrand by putting another divisive issue front and center, and being forced by their base to take a backward-looking, racially insensitive stance. They can survive, and might even have some modest gains with this tactic during the next few years while trimming off a percentage of the minority vote will still be enough thanks to the Fox news audience (white, over 70). But how long can a voting block that is over 70 maintain its influence, with another crop of diverse, mixed race, and multi-cultural Americans turning 18 every year?
This might be a short term fix for the 2014 election. Voting restrictions will help in Virginia in 2013. But the narrative that flows from battles over voting right will accelerate the speed at which Republicans lose the white, under 70 vote, starting with women and independents.
And, based on the strategy we’ve seen executed by the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, the narrative that flows will flow “like a mighty stream.”